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Bracing for holiday fatalities

People help remove a wedged car from a road divider earlier this year. Yesterday a forum was held at the Royal University of Phnom Penh to discuss measures to minimise road accidents during Pchum Ben.
People help remove a wedged car from a road divider earlier this year. Yesterday a forum was held at the Royal University of Phnom Penh to discuss measures to minimise road accidents during Pchum Ben. Heng Chivoan

Bracing for holiday fatalities

Government officials, civil society organisations and private sector representatives came together yesterday to highlight the measures they are taking to deal with the spike in road accidents the upcoming Pchum Ben festival will bring.

Speaking at a forum at the Royal University of Phnom Penh yesterday, Coalition for Road Safety executive director Lem Sokchea said her NGO would be deploying youth volunteers to take to the streets to educate members of the public, as well as launching a social media-based awareness campaign.

“During the important festivals, there are a lot more accidents, which means a lot more deaths compared to normal days, and we have to respond to this problem,” she said. “Even if we only manage to stop one death, it is still a success.”

Pchum Penh is a 15-day festival which began on Monday and includes nationwide public holidays on October 12, 13 and 14.

Interior Ministry road traffic regulation department director Luy Yin said dozens of extra traffic police units would be deployed during Pchum Ben under instructions to strictly enforce the country’s traffic laws.

“If [drivers] fail to obey the laws, we will fine them based on the law, and in the case of serious offences, we will impound their vehicles and send them to court,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chuon Vandorn, inspection officer at AZ Investment, called on the government to provide more funding for roads and road safety measures in order to reduce the number of accidents.

According to a report issued by the National Committee for Road Safety (NCRS) on Wednesday, more than 2,200 people died on Cambodia’s roads in 2014 – an average of more than six per day, an increase of almost 15 per cent compared to the previous year.

That statistic led the NCRS to warn that the annual death toll could surpass 3,000 per year by 2020 – a warning originally laid out in a national action plan the government-led body published in 2011.

While the action plan called for the government to spend at least $10 million per year on road safety measures, on Wednesday independent road safety expert Chariya Ear said the government has only been investing about $2 million a year.

Since the launch of the action plan, deaths have continued to rise annually, and with the Interior Ministry listing more than 1,700 road deaths so far this year, Cambodia is on track to see yet another increase in 2015.

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